Train to Jaffna back on rails

Services started after nearly 25 years

Jaffna: Sri Lanka’s president Monday launched train services to the battle-scarred city of Jaffna nearly 25 years after a bloody ethnic conflict destroyed the region’s entire railway network. President Mahinda Rajapaksa boarded a special train from the town of Palai on the southern end of the Jaffna peninsula and travelled to the cultural capital of Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority Tamils. His train stopped at three stations rebuilt as part of the reconstruction of 250-kilometres (157 miles) of track across the former war zone, both in the Jaffna peninsula and the northern mainland.

The train service from Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital Colombo, came to a halt in June 1990 after the collapse of a truce between separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces. The Tigers ruled Jaffna as their de-facto separate state for nearly five years till they were driven out of the peninsula after a major offensive in 1995. However, train services could not resume because of fighting in the rest of the northern mainland. Tiger rebels had also ripped up rails and sleepers to build bunkers.

After the defeat of the guerrillas in May 2009, the authorities began an ambitious reconstruction effort that included restoration of rail links — a key bridge between the Sinhalese majority in the south and the minority Tamil-dominated north.

( Source : AFP )
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